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Co- production and consultation in developing accessible information

Admittedly, before starting to study Speech and Language Therapy in September 2020 I think I had been quite ignorant to how inaccessible the world can be for people with learning disabilities and communication impairments. That’s not to say that I thought that accessibility was unimportant, but I had never been immersed in a world that needed extra support to access the world around them. I did not consider often enough how society functions mostly for those who do not need the help. Since my placement with Total Communication Services CIC/ Elysium Healthcare I have started to notice all the work that needs to be done. I have started to notice the poor quality of subtitles on most video platforms, the lack of willing support and patience in fast paced services such as coffee shops, banks, and post offices. I have also noticed that what some people might consider to be the ‘small details’ are in fact huge details or even impossible for someone who does not have the capability for them. I’ve never felt myself become so eager to be involved in change.

During my time with Alison at Total Communication Services, I spent some time creating accessible leaflets on various topics, like an introduction to Autism and DBT therapy. I spent a lot of time thinking about how a lot the people who might require these accessible leaflets will struggle with these so called ‘invisible illnesses’ and might not think to ask for information in a more simplistic way.

In 2016, the introduction of the ‘Accessible Information Standard’ made it mandatory that all organisations that provide NHS care make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their services so anyone and everyone can access their services in the same way. Some of the adjustments being made you could argue are still not good enough, and some services are seemingly only providing the bare minimum. Despite this, the Standard is a massive leap forward. My next question would be: Why can this standard not be projected into the rest of society?

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) are definitely trying! In November 2020, the RCSLT announced a new symbol that can be displayed outside of shops and businesses to highlight that the business has people at hand to help those with communication difficulties. Our various lockdowns have not allowed me to experience this symbol in the big wide world yet, but I am hopeful *with everything crossed* that it will be used and embraced!

Being exposed to all of this information has made me really consider who and how I want to be as a future Allied Health Professional and Speech and Language Therapist. If one of my client’s needs accessible information, such as simplified resources to help them do their therapy outside of our sessions, I know that I, myself, will need to be more accessible than perhaps I would normally be. This might be in how much time we spend on goals, my voice and language, my initial approaches with them…there is so much I am yet to learn, and I am so keen to involve myself with people that can teach me.

Whilst with Alison at Total Communication Services, I was invited to a self-advocacy group that spend a lot of time looking at ways they can raise awareness for the need of further accessibility in society for people with Learning disabilities, like themselves. It was such a privilege to have them provide me with feedback on the accessible leaflets I had been making because who am I, someone without a learning disability, to make a document aimed at people with a learning disability and claim it is accessible? They let me know what language was too difficult to understand, what images were too abstract, whether the font was too small or unintelligible. I cannot thank them enough for helping me, teaching me, and making me aware of the details I would not have even considered. Co-production should be an essential part of creating documents for anyone with an impairment.

Marika Lomax

Student Speech & Language Therapist


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